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Thursday, January 17, 2008




Vampira and Other Creatures Of The Late Night





I was 3000 miles away in my cradle when Vampira broke big hosting movies on Los Angeles television. For one who’d achieve such mythic status, she had a mighty short run on the airwaves. I’ve scoured obits for possible reasons why in the wake of Maila Nurmi’s death last week at 86. Nurmi said she and her alter ego were blacklisted. The squawk was over KABC’s desire to own Vampira outright. It was less Nurmi they wanted than her patent on the character. She had roamed graveyards in a lavish 40’s spook show Michael Todd staged (just once) in New York. Howard Hawks (him again!) got wind of that and signed her to be his next Lauren Bacall (women in receipt of that pitch would undoubtedly fill a phone book). Nurmi broke out on her promised-but-not-delivered big break and married Dean Reisner, former child actor for Charlie Chaplin (in The Pilgrim) and son of director Charles Reisner, who’d done Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. and helmed several Dane and Arthur (them again!) comedies. The KABC producer spotting Nurmi at a Hollywood party in her Morticia Addams get-up was pedigreed Hunt Stromberg, Jr., whose father oversaw many Blue Ribbon Metro features. Was Vampira the first horror host (ess) then? Maybe some obscure station out of Nowheresville used on-camera emcees for chillers prior to 1954, but there’s no record of them, and likely if there were, none would approach sexed-up shenanigans wasp-waisted Vampira delivered weekly. The only thing she lacked were movies engaging enough to sustain viewers between live routines. All were indie/cheapies sold to KABC despite establishment industry edicts withholding filmland product from TV. Bela Lugosi-philes say he watched White Zombie on KABC and dug Vampira's act. To-be classic noirs played as well, but audiences were decades away from embracing the likes of Detour and Decoy, and besides, what were these doing on a late night spook show? Nurmi’s exit (in less than a season) was abrupt and permanent. Why would an on-air personality featured in LIFE and Newsweek fade off the tube at her seeming summit? I’m guessing the station would have maintained Vampira minus Nurmi, for reasons lost to time. Was she too difficult in negotiations? Anyway, she withstood what must have been high pressure from the station to buy her character. In the end, neither profited. I don’t doubt the blacklist theory. Some phone calls among program managers probably settled future job prospects. Nurmi could be Vampira all day (and night), but what’s the point when cameras aren’t looking? There’d be numerous photo sittings. Ones shown here were out of agency files and suggest Nurmi was spreading her image where she could to score another midnight berth, but programmers weren’t buying. She sat out wee hours in the garb with assorted Hollyweirds in places like Googie’s Coffee Shop, where dame fortune smiled and introduced her to iconoclast of the moment James Dean. She said they hit it off, but he was less ready to scratch the town’s underbelly, telling Hedda Hopper not so gallantly that witches weren’t his thing and neither were dates with cartoons. Vampira retaliated with a publicly cast hex upon him, and sure enough, Dean exited out shortly after. Nurmi caught hell from creeps and sickies nationwide who figured she’d put the death mark on their idol, though better judgment might have silenced her during interviews where she claimed to have received spectral communications from Dean via her bedside radio.










Desperation’s last straw found Vampira pulling two hundred-dollars for a single workday on Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, a then unimaginable ticket to immortality that became Nurmi’s own equivalent of the Dean curse. No wonder she shunned latter-day interviews! Going through life with Wood cults in single-minded pursuit would consign anyone to retreat behind locked doors. Varied Vampiras were poaching Nurmi’s act by the time horror hosting really took off in the late fifties (one of them here with on-air m.c. John Zacherle at a record promotion). Vampira herself became less a graveyard smash than just another shill for producers peddling horror pictures such as Blood Of The Vampire, which received Vampira’s Good Ghoul-keeping Stamp of Approval in 1958. Horror hosts were meanwhile thicker than bees in a honey tree. American-International established its own Fraternal Registry Of International Ghoulish Horror Telecasters (FRIGHT for short) "in recognition of your gruesome talent and nerve-wracking ability to scare people out of their wits night after night." Incidental to such honorariums was AIP’s campaign on behalf of 1959’s Horrors Of The Black Museum, possibly the first occasion in which a studio made extensive use of horror hosts in selling a theatrical feature. Competition was such as to finally get Maila Nurmi out of costume and into chic attire for a personal appearance at the January 19, 1965 Tomb Of Ligeia premiere. Here she posed with the film’s star Vincent Price and former Bride Of Frankenstein Elsa Lanchester, as well as successor horror host Jeepers Keeper (Fred Stutman). The leopard caped countenance at left was in fact the genuine article among screen vampiresses, and predated Nurmi and her pretenders by twenty years at least. Carroll Borland had played opposite Bela Lugosi in 1934’s Mark Of the Vampire, and hers was the template others, including Vampira, would copy from then on. Relations that night between the two must have been chilly. For all of Nurmi’s dogged courtroom pursuit of fake Vampiras (the last of which would be hapless Elvira), here was the High Priestess of them all coming to call at age fifty in shrouds she wore when the model was invented three decades before. Must have been for Maila like someone walking over her grave.

















I was of that earnest mindset deploring horror hosts and their cheeky deconstruction of classic monsters. Cookie-cut routines airing weekly seem to have all come out of the same how-to manual for clueless stations with chiller packages and late-night slots to fill. Kids at school littler than me were making sport of Frankenstein and Dracula. I faithfully watched Dr. Evil out of Charlotte and Count Shockula from High Point but cringed over their mockery of horrors played straight in thirties and forties classics. Pure snobbery deprived me of laughs I might have enjoyed at age 12, but someone had to defend the integrity of The Black Cat and Werewolf Of London. Our sixth grade class presented a so-called "chapel program" for the school in 1966. It was a talent show of sorts and everyone had a turn. I would appear as Count Dracula and deliver a humorous monologue penned by another boy in the cast (Hey, Ro --- you still living in Texas?). The much-rehearsed Lugosi impression was down pat, and my mother furnished a resplendent cape with crimson lining. Our audience guffawed when I spoke longingly of the Transylvanian Twist and visits to the local blood bank, but few detected the stake this lousy skit was driving through my adolescent heart. Forgive me, Bela might well have served as my silent coda, yet hadn’t Lugosi himself burlesqued the image on countless stages during hardship bookings in the late forties and fifties? Maybe it was knowledge of these that made me protective of his image now, or possibly (and more likely) I just took such things too seriously. Letters to Channels 3 and 8 offered detailed instruction as to how they might properly present monster movies. Collective groans must have sounded whenever one of these arrived in the post. I chastised Count Shockula for insipid gagging, an inexpressive mask, and too many showings of The Flying Serpent. Station manager Dick Bennick replied. Turns out he was Count Shockula, master of ceremonies for the Mess America Pageants held at tri-city hardtops in addition to his Shock Theatre hosting duties and actually featured in Issue 45 of Famous Monsters (as shown here). Dr. Evil was magician and spook show favorite Philip Morris, who seemed to have brought his live act to every stage except the Liberty’s. Between begging for that and the Curse Of Frankenstein/Horror Of Dracula combo, I was truly Colonel Forehand’s worst nightmare in those days. Horror Theatre became Dr. Evil’s Friday night TV address. Channel 3 reached more viewers than any station in North Carolina. New Years Eve 1965 found the good doctor taunting a (he thought) captive gorilla during a broadcast of Teenagers From Outer Space. Upon the feature’s (more than welcome) conclusion, the roused ape broke free of its bonds and gave Dr. Evil merry chase through the studio. Even I was moved to relax vigilance on behalf of horror film dignity upon seeing this. Too bad not an inch of tape survives from these shows, as WBTV erased over them all for Saturday wrestling.























Having on previous occasion confessed of my 1969 disruption of Channel 4-Greenville’s broadcast day, I now relate a bittersweet account of another effort that year to bring better television to our benighted NC airwaves. Being supreme authority regarding such matters, I’d shared expertise with stations since the late fifties. A fifth birthday gift of a TV GUIDE subscription was what first inspired me to take childish scrawl to paper and draft revised schedules for nearby channels to implement. Not as experienced during pre-school days in matters of posting same, I must assume my parents deposited them in Amy’s magic mailbox, or some equivalent other than actual dispatch. In any case, my letters brought no replies until the mid-sixties when unfortunates at Channel 12 in Winston-Salem began apprising me of Universal horror films being shown as Saturday fillers. Their lease on these eventually played out, and it seemed to me they’d never been properly exploited. Perhaps if I showed up at their offices one day (unannounced), portfolio in hand, things could be put right. On said occasion in August 1969, my "cold call" to Channel 12 resulted in an hour’s sit-down with two of the vice-presidents, both of whom remembered letters I’d written over the past several years. My mission, if they chose to accept it, was nothing less than repurchase of the entire "Shock!" package and a classy format in which to present them. John Comas was program director. He listened patiently and promised to take my suggestions under advisement. Within a week of the meeting, I received the letter shown below. Success (if partial) at last! The referred-to Halloween special that began in prime time and lasted through the night of October 31 tempered my transport of joy. NBC’s schedule was pre-empted in favor of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, and Son Of Frankenstein. There were three horror hosts, none of them practiced in that art, and each determined to one-up the other with tomfoolery resulting in large chunks being cut from the features. Frankenstein began with Fritz dropping the normal brain; Dracula opened as Renfield entered the castle door. All four features were sans credits. Alas, this was television in those days. You took what you could get and made the best of it. A much updated postscript to my 1969 adventure might justify my relating it, for only today I sought out and spoke with John Comas, signator to this and many letters I received from Channel 12 and a vigorous retiree at age 87. We had a great talk about his days in television and the interesting deal he made with Screen Gems to get the ten titles listed in his August 1969 reply. Turns out he received special low terms on the cherry-picked horrors due to Channel 12’s community outreach to schools and local police for the Halloween special. Everyone’s idea was to give kids and teens something they could watch on TV that night in lieu of going out and possibly making mischief on Winston-Salem streets. Mr. Comas pointed out the fact that distributors seldom waived requirements that stations purchase larger packages in order to get movies they wanted. In the case of Screen Gems and the Shock! offerings, there were fifty-two features in one group and twenty in the other. It was highly unusual at the time for local broadcasters to select the best out of both and leave the rest alone. The fact that Channel 12’s Halloween Spooktacular was designed (at least partly) as a public service project was what secured Screen Gems' cooperation, along with generous terms that came with it. Fascinating insight into ways and means these Universal classics were sold to stations, and I thank John Comas for supplying it.








































Horror hosts enjoyed but regional glory. Few were syndicated. None to my knowledge cavorted on major networks. There was celebrity to be had in theatres, super markets, and used car lots, but only within reach of your host station’s broadcast signal. A collector I dealt with some twenty years ago turned out to have been one of Tennessee’s legendary monsters of ceremony, but I never realized such until long after he’d died in 1994. Russ McCown started with WSM in Nashville as film director. Chance substitution for a stage frightened studio performer found him in costume as one Sir Cecil Creape, host of Creature Features and immediate airwave sensation (that’s Russ/Sir Cecil in the color image). McCown brought real imagination to his horror hosting. There were contests, local celebrity guests, and much ad-libbing. Eventually, the act moved over to The Nashville Network, which widened his audience considerably, though execs ultimately let Sir Cecil go because he wasn’t country enough. I met Russ sometime after that. He’d show up at the Charlotte Western Film Fair with 16mm prints junked out of stations in Tennessee. There was nothing about his demeanor to suggest this was one of horror hosting’s leading lights. Russ was friendly, unassuming, and a font of information about inner workings in television. He also brought dynamite stuff in the trunk of his car. At a time when original prints of Sherlock Holmes, pre-48 Warners, and John Wayne Republics were exceedingly hard to come by, Russ had them all. Never once did he mention having been Sir Cecil Creape, let alone his past life signing autographs for hundreds of fans back home clamoring to meet him. This man had played through every syndicated package there was over years in broadcasting, and remembered much detail about programming movies in stations where he’d worked. Just for instance, that pre-48 Warner group was one that had fallen out of demand after moves to color programming and the availability of more recent features made them seem archaic by comparison. Prices were consequently way down by the early eighties. Russ said his station had paid just $125 per title for five runs of films like Passage To Marseille, Jezebel, and Captains Of The Clouds. That’s twenty-five dollars per run. It’s a good thing home video came along to rescue these shows and put them on a (hopefully) better revenue-generating basis. I do wonder what sort of coin vintage titles gather in today’s marketplace (such as --- just how much is Cinemax paying Paramount for tomorrow’s telecast of A Place In The Sun?), but these remain closely guarded secrets within the industry. Knowing people like Russ gave me occasional insight into them. I only wish I’d been aware of his alter ego and greater fame as Sir Cecil Creape. That would have made for even more enthralling conversation.

25 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a really great post! I guess the late night horror hosts must have faded away by the early '70s because I have no memory of them. I do, of course, remember some of the local kiddie show hosts like cowboy Fred Kirby and his Little Rascals program. Have you ever done an article on Fred Kirby? If not he would be a great subject...
- Nephew Will

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Milwaukee natives will remember Shock Theater and "Heeeeey Zombies!!!!"

All I can add is that I love Cecil Creape's teeth. The off-center placement is truly inspired.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

There was one syndicated one, "Seymour Presents," starring Larry Vincent, who unfortunately got cancer and died after one season or so. I can remember those being run in the mid-70s in Wichita, which also had its own homegrown version, "The Host and Rodney." The Host was a fellow named Tom Leahy, who also played cartoons from his moonbase during the day as "Major Astro", and also did commercials in various personas such as John Wayne. Even 10-year-olds could tell they were all the same guy. Anyway, here's Major Astro (whose moonbase command center, I'm sure, was just a mid-60s TV station switcher board):

http://kingoftheroad.net/kard.html

Here's The Host:

http://www.geocities.com/televisioncity/3257/aug29/HOST18.JPG

6:02 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Michael, thanks for that link to more horror hosts. Will, the link to a previous post on Fred Kirby and The Little Rascals Club is here ---

http://greenbriarpictureshows.blogspot.com/2006/01/born-this-day-hal-roach-and-mary-ann.html

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Jim Lane said...

I'll bet nearly every TV station in the country had a "Creature Feature" in the 1960s and '70s; I'm surprised some enterprising station didn't try to copyright the name -- or maybe they did, and found it was like trying to call dibs on "The Late Show."

Here in Sacramento, the host was Bob Wilkins (b. 1932), who took the opposite tack from the Halloween dress-up; he was a cigar-chomping dweeb in horn-rimmed glasses who looked like Waldo from the old Our Gang shorts, and introduced his films with a dry humor that wafted sardonically into the cloud of smoke over his head. From Sacramento, in 1971, he went on to a similar gig at KTVU Channel 2 in Oakland, where he developed something of a semi-national reputation (http://www.bobwilkins.net/creaturefeatures.htm). He even has a listing in Wikipedia -- which, sadly, reports that he's back in Sacramento and suffering from Alzheimers.

As for dress-up hosts, I remember one -- possibly syndicated, possibly not -- who, like Zacherle, modeled himself on Lon Chaney's Phantom and did a short stint on another Sacramento station in the early '60s. So short, in fact, that I only remember seeing him once, presenting that showing of Daughter of the Dragon (with Anna May Wong and Warner Oland) which I mentioned in an earlier comment. During one break, he cackled, "The only thing about this movie that's 'dragon' is the plot!"

1:00 AM  
Blogger MDG14450 said...

Great post--and great images. Thanks.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Dean said...

Such a small world exists for fans of Greenbriar Picture Shows! I, like Jim Lane, fondly recall Sacramento’s Bob Wilkins and his Creature Features late night on channel 3. Part of a movie’s introduction included a cheesy title card. For example, Black Sunday was represented by the most obvious image of an ice cream sundae dripping with a thick (chocolate? blood?) sauce. Quite a memorable image for a much younger me watching on the family 19 inch black and white TV! http://bobwilkinsthemanbehindthecigar.blogspot.com/2006_10_01_archive.html contains more information on Mr. Wilkins along with some of the movies he hosted.

1:19 AM  
Blogger Erik said...

Another fascinating post.

In Washington DC beginning in 1969 or so I was watching Creature Feature with "Count Gore de Vol" in a Lugosi outfit. At some point I realized the same guy, sans makeup, was also "Captain Twenty" earlier in the day (same channel, i.e., 20). Then I realized the same guy was pitch-hitting sometimes as Bozo, too, in the morning.

In 1972 moved to California, discovered "Creature Feature" there, too, but not the same host. Suddenly realized something about regional broadcast workings.

Several years and places later, back in Washington DC in 1977 and there's Count Gore de Vol still hamming away on Channel Twenty. Started to pick up broadcasts of channel 40 from Baltimore ("Ghost Host Theatre"), which had an extremely dark filmstrip of a mad scientist which never changed week-to-week hosting their midnight run of two horror films and a serial episode on Saturday nights(saw the entire Karloff "Night Key" for example).

Was in the Ozarks for a few years starting in 1984, and a Springfield, Mo channel broadcast a monster show Saturdays, but no host! Eventually the "Elvira" program was being carried but I never took to her shtick.

Back in DC in 1997, discovered the Channel Twenty station had been sold, and according to the "Count Gore de Vol" web site, almost all of those old recordings of his creature feature days were trashed along with much else when the station changed hands.

I guess old TV Guide copies are the only place the record of things like this still exist. Unless its true what they say about I Love Lucy - - that if you go out far enough and fast enough into space, you could still catch the original broadcasts of anything.

8:41 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Got a nice e-mail from reader Steve in California ---

Hi John- Once again, great job. I very much enjoyed your post regarding program director Mr. Comas and the letters/meeting. The fact that they met with you and listened to your ideas is proof that the old days were better! Nowadays, they'd call security and have you banished from the property! I LOVE local stories relating to the old SHOCK THEATER package, and you provided a great one. Very briefly, here's mine:
Though presently living in Los Angeles since '86, I was born and raised partially in the Deep South- Alabama and Tennessee. When I was about 5 we were living in Nashville. My mother got me up at dawn (or close to it) to deliver me to the local TV station(WSIX CH.8) for my one week( Mon.-Friday) appearance on ROMPER ROOM, for which I'd been on the waiting list. I remember driving in the dark to the station- a winding drive up a a mountain, at whose top was the studio. I remember the huge antenna rising up behind the station. Anyway, all I remember apart from what I've told you was the day our ROMPER ROOM hostess(?) asked all us kids on the air which TV show was our favorite. I dont recall being coached to say anything specific, but most kids answered something like Bugs Bunny, Mighty Mouse, etc. When it came my turn, I blurted out SHOCK THEATER, to the audible guffaws of the cameramen and staff beyond the RR set, out there in the darkened studio floor. I can only imagine what my mother felt as she sat there with the other Moms, off camera. She'd reluctantly allowed my older sister and I to stay up w/ our Dad to watch SHOCK religiously on Saturday nights, with a follow up encore Sunday afternoons at noon. We'd always race home from church and sit in the den having Sunday lunch on TV trays to watch the remainder of the feature. The Sunday encore was called SHOCK JUNIOR .Honest!Another of my very favorite warm and fuzzy TV memories is occasionally catching a PETE SMIITH SPECIALTY on a rainy weekend afternoon after the movie. I really loved those, but when I show one to friends nowadays before showing a feature, they kinda scratch their heads. Did you ever watch the old DAVEY AND GOLIATH shows sponsored by the Lutheran church? Those were so good for kids then... As usual, keep up the good work! Steve

12:46 PM  
Anonymous John said...

I was the Program Director for a VERY small Public Broadcasting station in Central Ohio from 1970-76. We were located near Columbus, Ohio and had a great relationship with NTA in Los Angeles. At that time, NTA controlled all the pre-'48 20th Century Fox releases and we booked them for $50 per showing. We aired "In Old Chicago", "Nightmare Alley", "Western Union", "Call Northside 777", etc. These films had previously aired on WBNS in Columbus and NTA was looking for whatever loose change they could pick up in the market. We picked 26 titles every year and ran each one twice...26 new ones straight and then repeated them over.
We also aired a Republic serial chapter each week for 3 to 4 years as part of a Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. series titled "Serial Playhouse". We booked these at (get this) $10 per episode. We aired all the Zorro titles, "Mysterious Doctor Satan" and others. We even aired the "Captain America" serial which a NTA executive later told me that they probably didn't have the TV rights to.
The station went off-the-air in 1976 and for the last few weeks, we aired a "Saturday Night Six-Pack" of B-westerns and B-features from NTA. I have the titles and some of the local newspaper ads we took out. I'll see if I can find them and send you some via e-mail.

3:27 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Wow, John, that is some fantastic info. Getting rental prices on these syndicated titles is something I'm always interested in. Thanks for passing this along, and by all means feel free to forward whatever lists or images you come across. I'd love to see more!

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had our own host who was called Dr. Creep who show was on on Saturdays. He is still around and does charity events.

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Griff said...

This thread made me pleased to note this morning that Paul Thomas Anderson's THERE WILL BE BLOOD received a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Why?

Well, in addition to its virtues as an ambitious drama, THERE WILL BE BLOOD is a "Ghoulardi Film Production." As far as I know, this film is the first Academy nominee from a production entity named after a great tv horror host. Anderson's father, the late ABC announcer Ernie Anderson, was famous in the midwest for his mid-'60s appearances as the hip, deeply weird Ghoulardi on Cleveland tv's Shock Theater.

I don't know if the names of the production companies will be read aloud during the Academy ceremony -- they used to be, but the sheer number of involved production companies these days probably now rules this out -- but it would be a great kick to hear a brave presenter attempt to soberly pronounce the word "Ghoulardi" without laughing out loud. Ernie Anderson, a frequent Oscar night announcer, would be proud beyond measure.

12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding TV Film Rentals...I programmed a station in Madison, WI in the 80's and most titles sold to us were $250 a title for 5 runs. Some distributors wanted to charge a $25 booking fee for a color print. We ususally made a deal to get the first booking free and then transferred the film to tape for future showings.

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Spencer Gill said...

I can understand the early snobbery towards horror hosts. After all they often trashed some pretty good films. However as a kid in the early 1960's I was so thrilled to be part of the Monster Craze I welcomed anyone who wanted to participate. So I loved our local horror host RONALD (Jerry Sandford, Shock Theatre on Fridays, 11:30 p.m. WVEC-TV, Channel 13 in Norfolk-Hampton Roads, Virginia, 195? - 196?) even though he trashed some pretty darned good Universal flicks as well as Val Lewton titles. Hey it was all part of the Monster Mania and I was so happy I was there for it. I was sorry to see it go. The fact that the Orange County station KDOC 56 runs a Universal Horror Film at 9 PM ever Saturday night makes me happy.

Spencer Gill (opticalguy1954@yahoo.com)

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Laughing Gravy said...

Ghoulardi, who was on channel 8 out of Cleveland 1963-66, is directly responsible for entertaining and/or warping a generation of feverish kids, including Michael Weldon (of PSYCHOTRONIC VIDEO GUIDE fame) and me (of no fame whatsoever). His popularity was so vast that by the 1970s, you couldn't throw a boom-boom in Northeast Ohio without hitting a horror host. On any given weekend, we Akronites had The Cool Ghoul, Son of Ghoul, and The Ghoul (no relations, except to the art of Ghoulardi ripoffery), Big Chuck and Houlihan, Sir Graves Ghastly, Count Alucard, and Superhost, the latter of whom ran for hour after hour every Saturday with serial chapters, Stooges and Leon Errol shorts, and the usual array of badly edited genre flicks. It was practically possible to sit down in front of the tube at 7 p.m. on Friday night and not get up until Sunday night and see one great film or short ("great" being a relative term) after another. THOSE were the days.

6:35 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Gravy, you really had it made living up there. We had the Universal horrors in two accessable viewing markets down here and plenty of comedy shorts and serials as well, but no one was running them through entire weekends non-stop!

Spencer, I'm surprised and pleased to hear of a station still running Universal horrors as a syndicated group. Wonder how much they're paying for those rights. There can't be more than a handful of local outlets using these packages nowadays. Do they have commercial breaks and a host of any sort?

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Griff said...

While based in the Houston area this past autumn, I was elated to note that a Houston UHF station was airing a series of Universal horror pix on Saturday nights -- and they were running better prints, particularly of FRANKENSTEIN, than I saw on local stations when I was a kid. The show did feature a few horror host wraparounds as well, though these could have used a little work.

11:59 PM  
Anonymous Spencer Gill said...

John McElwee said...

>>Spencer, I'm surprised and pleased
>>to hear of a station still running
>>Universal horrors as a syndicated
>>group. Wonder how much they're
>>paying for those rights. There
>>can't be more than a handful of
>>local outlets using these packages
>>nowadays. Do they have commercial
>>breaks and a host of any sort?

The station runs the films like any other film without special intros, graphics or a host. The transfers are a bit light and low contrast for my tastes and the sound has an annoying quality because KDOC channel 56 in Orange County is a very cheap little station and their equipment isn't the best. Still they run 'em and I love 'em for it. They used to run THE WILD, WILD, WEST every weeknight and I really enjoyed that.

11:41 PM  
Blogger The Plush Armadillo said...

Wonderful article... except that two of your most prominently-displayed photographs (aahosts5.jpg and aahosts6.jpg) aren't of Maila Nurmi. They appear in the section mentioning Ed Wood's Plan Nine From Outer Space; in fact, they're of Carroll Borland opposite Bela Lugosi in the 1932 MGM film Mark of the Vampire.

1:03 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Hi Plush Armadillo --- My command of Blogger is not such that I can always line my photos up beside related text, but Carroll Borland is sufficiently unmistakable that I figured no one would confuse her image with that of also-pictured Vampira.

1:08 PM  
Blogger The Plush Armadillo said...

Hi, John. I thought that was a pretty unlikely error for you of all people to make, but hey, these things happen. Figured it couldn't hurt to point it out. :)

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John,
In the Toledo market in the late 50s, and 60s, we had Ghoulardi, and Detroit's channel 2 had Sir Graves Ghastly on Saturday afternoons, who by the way died a few years ago in his 90s. In high school, we had a classmate who was sufficiently weird to be nicknamed "Ghoulardi"

Detroit had "Shock Theatre" but I don't remember a host for their Saturday night show on Channel 7. They had a great title slide and theme song, though.

EC Toledo

3:17 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Ted Okuda and Mark Yurkiw have a new book out: "Chicago TV Horror Movie Hosts: From Shock Theatre to Svengoolie." I can recommend it as a fun read for movie buffs, and this from someone who has almost no personal frame of reference for this topic. We got The Ghoul in Boston -- or as Steve Allen might have said, "We saw it, but we didn't GET it." The Ghoul -- of Cleveland, who replaced Svengoolie in Chicago -- achieved some success in certain markets but went over like a lead balloon in Boston!

I saw a lot of poverty-row horrors in the danged-est places: the Bela Lugosi Monograms shown in the East Side Kids time slot (same NTA package); PRC thrillers shown UNANNOUNCED in "surprise" overnight telecasts. No masters of ceremonies, they just threw the reels on the projector and ran 'em.

5:23 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

I just got that book, Scott. It's great! I can't believe all the detail those guys had about packages run in the Chicago market in those days. This was really my kind of book. Thanks for reminding me of it. Definitely one I'd highly recommend.

5:46 PM  

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